Tipping Point - Pressure Ramps Up For Final Two Days of Melges 32 World Championship in Miami
6 December 2014
Miami, FL - For those lucky enough to race the Melges 32 World Championship, and for the tens of thousands spectating at home via social media, there’s been no shortage of action anywhere this week on the 8-mile race course in front of Miami Beach. Florida’s supreme weather is partly responsible, with 4 foot waves and 15+ knots every day for the past week showing off the very best of the Melges 32 sportboat. The boats themselves stand out as much as the skill of their mixed professional/amateur crews and owner/drivers; pushing the world’s fastest and most competitive 30-foot monohull around the course is no easy business.
Day Three of the event, hosted by Coconut Grove Sailing Club (CGSC) saw some of the most aggressive racing yet from the seventeen teams sailing out of Miami Beach Marina. Both races saw four-wide overlaps at the top marks and multiple boats finishing inches apart, and the incredible parity amongst the boats and crews means a single good or bad result could – and did - completely change a team’s position.
With a breeze coming from 30 degrees right of the previous two days, the fleet saw a different set of race conditions. Waves at a different angle, different course references, and the top left bailout window that helped so many boats score well over the past few days was nowhere to be found on day three.
Race Five rewarded poor starts; those forced to bail out of the lineup and head to the right found increasingly nice right shifts to carry them across the bows of the boats that started on the line – and clean – but headed left.
Proving his second-spot at the top mark yesterday was no fluke, Chris Wientjes and his Stormvogel team came in hot on the port tack layline, sneaking in front of a hard-charging Jason Carroll on Argo. His upwind speed couldn’t help Wientjes on the run, and Carroll quickly surged past on a wave and put the hammer down. “It’s so great to have a group that drags my butt around the race course,” said Wientjes. “Getting to that top mark second yesterday and first today in this fleet is just the best feeling ever!”
In a bit of déjà vu from Race Two of the Championship, Carroll extended on every leg, seeming almost to sail in their own private breeze, a knot stronger than anyone else’s. Like Race Two, Carroll crossed the finish line some two minutes ahead of the second-place boat, Day One leader Nafumo Kamei’s Mamma Aiuto!. Mike Kuschner says Argo’s success always comes from great teamwork. “If we don’t work all the time hiking the boat down, the guys at the back will have a very tough time of it, and if they don’t put us in good spots, no amount of hiking will make up for it.” said Kuschner. “This really is a complete team sport, and that means we’re all going to work as hard as we possibly can, all the time.”
On the day sponsored by Bermuda racer and Hedgehog owner Alec Cutler, the mighty hogs picked themselves up from a two-day slump and sailed to a strong third place.
The second and final race of the day saw a softening breeze and a conservative start, with only John Kilroy’s Samba Pa Ti over the line early. After a week of consistent if unremarkable finishes, Ryan DeVos and his Volpe team finally released their pixie dust, strung together five good shifts up the beat and rounded with a five-length lead at the top mark. A nice puff at the offset mark held DeVos on starboard gybe long enough for Alessandro Rombelli to swing his Melges 32 STIG through a gybe-set and race away from the fleet on port. Rombelli didn’t put a foot wrong, taking the favored right side on the final beat and loosely covering the fleet behind on the last run. Partially frustrated and partially overjoyed, Rombelli explained. “We had one good race and one bad one yesterday, and today we have one bad and one good one.” Rombelli sits on third place, just four points out of the lead.
Despite an additional two races on the board, the regatta scores continue with an almost unheard of closeness – nine points separate the top eight boats, meaning any one of them (and probably a couple behind, too) could win this regatta. Evidence shows of the closeness of Melges 32 World Championship racing with a vast number of double-digit finishes; every competitor has already picked up at least one. How’s that for exciting?
Three races are scheduled on Saturday ratcheting up both the physical and mental pressure on every team. Fatigue and injury will be a factor for even the fittest teams, especially during the third race. Whoever can muster up the energy, focus and determination to pull off three single-digit finishes will most likely find themselves in the pole position going into the final decider on Sunday morning.
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TOP TEN RESULTS (After Six Races, One Discard)
1.) Jason Carroll/Cameron Appleton, Argo; 7-1--6-1-8 = 23
2.) Edoardo Lupi & Massimo Pessina/Lorenzo Bressani, Torpyone; 8--1-7-8-2 = 26
3.) Alessandro Rombelli/Terry Hutchinson, STIG; 5-6-3--12-1 = 27
4.) Alec Cutler/Richard Clarke, hedgehog; 10-4 -7--3-4 = 28
5.) Pierre Casiraghi/Vasco Vascotto, Robertissima; 1-9/RDG-9-1--9 = 29
6.) Naofumi Kamei/Manu Weiller, Mamma Aiuto!; 4-2-5-[18/DSQ]-2-17 = 30
7.) William Douglass/Chris Larson, Goombay Smash; [18/DNF]-5-4-4-4-13 = 30
8.) Ryan DeVos/James Spithill, Volpe; 6-8-6-9--3 = 32
9.) Richard Goransson/Morgan Larson, Inga From Sweden; 3-10-2-5-14- = 34
10.) Dalton DeVos/Jonathan McKee, Delta; 2-7--2-16-10 = 37
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